The Narration Nest segment is designed to give readers a way to connect with audiobook narrators, learn more about the process of recording an audiobook and get a better sense of the individual behind the voice.
Flying into the nest today is Josh Bloomberg, whose work includes narrating titles like American Philosophy: A Love Story and Terror On Wall Street. Continue to the end of the interview for more about Josh.
Let's start with some commonly posed questions:
When did you know you wanted to be an audiobook narrator?
I’ve always been interested in storytelling. And I’ve wanted to be a voice actor since I was 12 years old, before it was a popular go-to profession. Then I started acting professionally on-stage, which lead to on-screen and on-mic. So I feel like narrating audiobooks is the meeting point of all of those interests. I get to connect listeners to the story, which is always challenging fun.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of narrating an audiobook?
I guess when I’m narrating a book that resonates with something I feel deeply within me, I’m able to really bring out the truth the author is looking to share, and that’s the moment that I love the most. Connecting things and sharing myself. As for my least favorite part, it’s probably the nitty-gritty parts: the sweat (the recording booth is hot), the back pain from sitting there for too long, keeping away from my favorite vocal-vices like drinking, talking loudly, dairy, etc. As a kid, I would dream of the day when I could tell people, “Sorry I can’t join you, I have to record tomorrow so I’m looking after my voice”. It thought it would make me seem so cool! But now, it’s really a nuisance and hinders my social life (but it’s worth it, of course).
What would you say are your strongest narration abilities?
First-person narrators with a lot of introspective text. The key is to forget about the microphone and the manuscript, and just give yourself time to really think about what the character is thinking about.
How closely do you prefer to work with authors?
I actually don’t work with authors so closely because most of my work comes directly from the publishers. So if I have a specific question for the author, I send an email to the publisher and they will ask for me. Usually we’re told not to be in touch directly with the author (in fact it’s in my contract). This is the complete opposite way of doing things on platforms like ACX, where the narrator-author communication is a necessity.
Who are your “accent inspirations”?
I don’t have any one person in mind. It really depends on the character. I like to do accents, but I’m a perfectionist, so I always worried about not getting it exactly right. Recently I needed a Cockney accent for most of the book, so I modeled that after Michael Caine (obviously).
Do you read reviews for your audiobooks?
Sometimes. I don’t really keep track but I do glance occasionally. Of course it feels good to get a positive and not-so-good to get a negative one, but unless the reviewer explains WHY they felt the way they did, then it’s not really helpful. Everyone gets bad reviews. We all want to get better at what we do, so constructive criticism is always welcome. My colleague and fellow narrator Johnny Heller famously received a review that said he sounded like a bucket of vomit! Johnny is one of the best narrators out there, and the funniest part is, as we all know, a bucket of vomit doesn’t sound like anything!
Who is your “dream author” that you would like to record for?
Well, I was recently considered for a David Grossman novel, but I didn’t get that one. I did just record “Dance Dance Dance” by Haruki Murakami, and honestly, I can’t think of a cooler more fun book to narrate. He’s such a quirky author and the words are so well written that it makes narrating his book feel like dancing (no joke intended, honestly). So I’d be ecstatic if I got to record more of his books. But in general, I think it’s less about who wrote the book than the book itself. I’ve recorded books by unknown authors and I’ve just eaten them up.
What bits of advice would you give to aspiring audiobook narrators?
I guess the most important advice would be: Don’t sell yourself out. A lot of narrators just starting out (I myself was guilty of this) are just so eager to get work that they accept unrealistically low pay. It will hurt you in so many ways further down the line. Having learned my lesson, I’m a strong believer in “if you’re not happy making what you’re currently asking for for the next 10 years, don’t do it!” Most people aren’t aware of how much work this actually is. Just like in other types of voiceover, people assume, “Well, I have a mouth, too!” But that’s far from enough. Which leads me to my second piece of advice: Get training. There are many courses out there, mainly online, that can help you up your game. Consider getting one-on-one coaching. It’s expensive but well worth the investment if you’re serious about what you do. I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Grammy-award winning director Paul Ruben, which has not only helped me evolve as a storyteller and actor, but has given me the confidence that I’m good at what I do (which is sometimes hard to come by when you’re sitting alone in a padded box all day) and the pride that I’m actually taking care of myself professionally, which is a upward spiral the way I see it.
Any funny anecdotes from inside the recording studio?
Sometimes, I crack up laughing at myself because I just can’t get a sentence to come out. I might try 10, 20, or believe it or not, 30 times to say this one sentence and it just won’t come out right, and by the end, I’m so frustrated that I crack up at how strange it feels to not be able to speak when that’s my job. I’ve even saved those “bloopers” and edited them into recordings of their own, just to share with friends so they kind of get a sense of what I do and how things can sometimes get so bad, it’s laughable.
Oh, also I think some people would be surprised to discover how little clothing I wear to work. It’s just so damn hot.
A huge "thank you" to Josh for volunteering as The Narration Nest's debut guest and for providing this awesome insight into his work. If you have any questions for him, leave them in the comments section below. Who knows, he maybe willing to return to the Nest sometime for an interactive Q&A!
Josh is a trained professional actor, both on-screen and on-mic. He has extensive audiobook experience as a director (Al Roker's Storm of the Century), and as a narrator, including some Wall Street Journal and New York Times Bestsellers. Josh narrates titles for some of the biggest publishers in audiobooks on a regular basis (sometimes under a pseudonym). Josh is a member of the Audio Publishers Association. He also records his voice for commercial spots and other types of voiceover.